Preview

More seals for the killing, and more people trying to stop it

January 24 1977
Preview

More seals for the killing, and more people trying to stop it

January 24 1977

More seals for the killing, and more people trying to stop it

Preview

It may seem like only yesterday that the last great seal hunt battle was lost and won, but actually its resumption is only a few months away. In March, on the ice floes off the coast of Newfoundland, Canadian and Norwegian sealers will attempt to knock off 170,000 (up 43,000 from last year) baby harp seals for their pelts, and three militant conservationist groups will try to stop them. A Swiss foundation, a newcomer to the fray, has tried to buy the seals’ lives with a $400,000 offer to Canadian authorities. Its second plan is to airlift some 600 journalists from around the world to publicize the event; they will be taken daily, by icebreaker and helicopter,

to the killing ground. But neither Paul Watson of the Vancouver-based Greenpeace Foundation nor Brian Davies of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, based in Fredericton, New Brunswick, is tipping his hand as to where, how and by what means they will respond. Last year’s announcement by the Greenpeace people that they would spray-dye the seals before the hunt began, making their pelts unusable, resulted in the federal government passing a law to make such action illegal. Davies actually got himself arrested under a Fisheries Act charge, but the case was tossed out of court.

Right time, right place

When Medium Saignant (Medium Rare) was first staged in Quebec in 1970, just prior to the “FLQ Crisis,” it was a success. When it was revived—fortuitously—just before the November 15 Parti Québécois election victory it became a smash. It ran six SRO weeks at Montreal’s Place des Arts, then briefly in Quebec City, and now the revival has been revived, by popular demane) : it returns to Place des Arts January 25 through February 6, and then goes on tour throughout the province. The play, by Françoise Loranger, has come to the attention of English Canada less because of its content than the kinds of feelings it elicits from its audiences. Medium Saignant involves a town council meeting in an unnamed Quebec community where the French-only question is being debated. It is actually a thinly disguised dramatization

of the “Battle of St. Léonard” in 1968, the first attempt to channel immigrant children into French-only schools. In the play, the French are the good guys, English and Italians the bad. The problem, it seems, is with the blackboard placed outside the theatres seeking audience comments. Of several hundred, a few were racist, and they got the publicity. “Down with the Italians,” one said. “I hate the English,” read another.

Paying for putting-it-off

The last thing the federal government needs right now is another divisive issue, but it’s about to get one nonetheless. In early February a report will cross Justice Minister Ron Basford’s desk that will reportedly confirm the suspicion that the government’s 1969 abortion reform was at least partly a failure, in the sense that the law is applied unevenly across the country. The national ratio of abortions to live births in 1975 was 13.6 to 100; but in Quebec it was only 6.5 to 100, in Ontario 19.5 to 100 and in British Columbia 26.1 to 100. Already the proand anti-abortion forces are grouping: Alliance For Life (anti) has labeled the report, prepared by a threeperson commission, “biased” and “set up to elicit a pro-abortion réponse.” Even commission chairman Robin Badgley, professor of behavioral science at the University of Toronto, is predicting controversy. For the Liberals, the timing couldn’t be worse, but in a way it’s their own fault: they commissioned the report

in 1975, mostly to take the heat off themselves then.

Early warning system

Every year in Canada, thousands of babies are born with defects that will either kill them quickly or condemn them to severely— physically and/or mentally-impaired lives. There are about 1,400 known birth defects, and some of them are remediable—// they’re discovered in time. And soon many of them will be diagnosed in time, thanks to a computer that will go into operation in Boston this spring. It has been programmed with information from 400 physicians in 22 countries and is currently being tested for accuracy. When this is completed,

doctors throughout the world, by feeding symptoms into their local terminals, will be able to get a near-instant probable diagnosis, plus methods of treatment. As well, the computer will provide additional information, such as the probability of the defect being repeated in any future offspring. The system becomes even more important in light of the fact that some birth defects are so rare that the average doctor might not see one case in his professional lifetime.

The earth will provide

In Yorkshire there’s a pub that claims it has had a peat fire burning in its fireplace for more than 100 years. A factory near Galway, in Ireland, is fully fueled by peat. Peat has heated homes in Britain and Ireland and Finland for 100 years. And it could become the next great Canadian fuel. By the end of February the government of New Brunswick should have a peat-burning boiler plant heating an acre of greenhouse in Lamèque on frigid Shippegan Island, just off the northeast coast. If it works—and it should—the heavy, dark, decomposed plant matter could go into common use as a heating source in Canada, a country that has an estimated 500,000 square miles of peat bog. New Brunswick alone has some 1.75 million acres of peat lands—almost 10% of the province’s total surface area. Aside from the ease with which peat can be quarried and its efficacy as a fuel, there is another advantage; peat bogs are self-renewing.